The Legal Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

Legal-Grounds-for-Divorce

Like all other states, New Jersey allows you to file for a “no-fault” divorce. Under the concept of a no-fault divorce, there’s no need to identify any cause of the marital breakdown, other than to state that there are “irreconcilable differences.” You can, however, file an “at fault” divorce, where the court makes a determination as to who brought about the dissolution of the marriage. Attributing fault can give you an advantage in the divorce proceedings, leading to a more favorable custody ruling or a better marital property settlement.

To obtain an “at fault” divorce in New Jersey, you must state legal grounds for the divorce. In New Jersey, proof of the following may be sufficient to allow the court to grant a divorce for cause:

  • You and your spouse have maintained separate residences for at least 18 months (technically, this is considered “no-fault”)
  • Your spouse forced you to participate in a “deviant sexual act”—unfortunately, the law is not very clear as to what qualifies as “deviant”
  • One spouse had an extra-marital affair
  • Your spouse has left the marital home and has been gone for at least 12 months
  • Your spouse has a substance abuse problem—drugs or alcohol—which has persisted for more than 12 months
  • Your spouse subjected you to a level of physical abuse and/or mental cruelty that made it unbearable to live with him or her. You may also seek an at-fault divorce if your spouse has endangered your life in any way.
  • Your spouse has been institutionalized for a mental health problem for a minimum of 24 months consecutively after you were married and before you filed for divorce
  • Your spouse has been incarcerated or has been sentenced to a term of 18 months or more after the date of your marriage.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Your Rights in a Child Custody Matter in New Jersey

Child-Custody-Matter-in-New-Jersey

When you are involved in a divorce proceeding and there are minor children in the home, you’ll need to come to an agreement about who will have custody and what visitation will look like. As a parent, you want what’s best for your children, but you also want to play a meaningful role in their growth and development.

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

The first thing you need to understand is that the law makes a distinction between physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child resides most of the time, i.e., where the child would consider “home” to be. In most instances, the court will grant primary custody to one of the parents and allow visitation with the other parent. In determining which parent will have primary custody, the court will give priority to “the best interests of the child.” (See our discussion below).

Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to each parent’s right to participate in the decision-making process with respect to things like health, education and religious training. As a general rule, the courts prefer to grant joint legal custody, so that both parents are involved.

The Best Interests of the Child

When making decisions that have an impact on minor children, the courts in New Jersey are bound to promote the “best interests of the child.” As a general rule, the “best interests of the children” are served by encouraging regular contact with both parents. The court will also look at specific criteria, including:

  • The age, gender, and physical and mental health of the child
  • The mental and physical health of both parents, including the ability to parent, as well as any allegations of domestic violence or abuse
  • The respective lifestyles of both parents, including alcohol, tobacco and drug use or inappropriate exposure to sexual matters
  • The emotional bond the child has with each parent
  • The ability of the parents respectively to provide for the child’s financial, physical and emotional needs
  • The lifestyle and routines to which the child has become accustomed
  • The impact that changing the child’s residency would have
  • The preference of the child, if the child has reached a certain age, typically 12 years of age

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Allocation of Income Tax Exemptions For Children and Deductions For Real Estate – An Often Overlooked But Important Issue In Divorce and Separation Situations

calculator-385506_640Many people in divorce and separation proceedings simply assume (1) the primary custodial parent of a child receives the child’s income tax exemption and (2) the party living in a house or condo receives that property’s deductions (e.g., real estate taxes, mortgage interest).

Those are the general rules – but parties can negotiate a different result and courts can order a different result, if asked.

When exemptions and deductions are negotiated, they are often evenly divided.  If there are two children each parent takes one, or if there is one child the parties alternate taking the child every other year.  The real estate deductions can be divided similarly.

As your attorney, I can also use the exemptions and deductions to “trade off” for something else that’s important to you.

Contact Our Divorce and Family Law Practice

To set up an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you weekdays between 9 am and 5 pm. We won’t take your case unless we know we can help.

Grandparent Visitation Rights in New Jersey

for-reading-813666_640Grandparent visitation rights are extremely weak in New Jersey.  The courts have generally taken the position that parents have a constitutional right to raise children as they see fit, even if that means cutting off their children from their grandparents.

However, there is a major exception to this rule – if the grandparent can show that the child would suffer harm if deprived of contact with his or her grandparent(s).

Family Law Attorney in New Jersey

How does an attorney prove such “harm”?  Unfortunately, just stating, “Of course any child suffers harm from not seeing a grandparent!” is not enough.  In order to prove harm, a grandparent generally must show that he/she:
(1) has a close relationship with the grandchild;
(2) has spent significant time with the grandchild (actually having lived with the grandchild is extremely helpful); and
(3) has had significant responsibility for the grandchild’s care.

Disputes between grandparents and parents over seeing children are extremely emotional and sad.  However, an attorney experienced in this field can make all the difference in gaining visitation/blocking visitation.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you weekdays between 9 am and 5 pm. We won’t take your case unless we know we can help.

Do I Need An Attorney For My Court Proceeding?

The answer is yes. It’s similar to asking if you need a surgeon for your operation. You really don’t want to operate on yourself, and you really don’t want to represent yourself in court.

The legal system is complicated. No one helps you along the way. People give you advice, and they mean well, but they don’t always know what they’re talking about, and your friend’s divorce results don’t necessarily match yours. All families – parents, their children, their jobs, homes, bank accounts, retirement plans, whatever – are unique. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution in the legal system. The skill is crafting the best solution for your particular situation.

If you don’t handle things right, the consequences can be devastating– custody of a child with the wrong parent, or an unjustified restraining order keeping a person out of his or her home, or being wrongly placed on the State’s registry of domestic violence abusers, or paying too much child support or alimony, or receiving too little child support or alimony. Do NOT just expect “the system” to get  things right– tons of mistakes are made because a case was not presented properly. The legal system is a huge bureaucracy and you won’t get much sympathy from overwhelmed court personnel.

I went to law school for three full years, and then studied for the bar exam for another half year. I’ve been navigating the legal system for 35 years.

I’ve learned a lot along the way. There is no way you’ll handle your case nearly as well as me if you have no legal training. I’ve watched people trying to represent themselves in courtrooms for many years, and I almost always cringe because they have no idea what they’re doing.

There’s nothing wrong with meeting with two or three attorneys to see which one you’re most comfortable with. Attorneys also cost money, and I have no magic answer for that. My practice is also a business, and attorneys, including me, charge for their services. But you do need an attorney for your court proceeding.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you weekdays between 9 am and 5 pm. We won’t take your case unless we know we can help.